The fact that the characteristics of a person are clear and known does not prevent falsehood to take the seat of truth and the false claimants to claim the truth which actually arises from selfish motives. In the adventurous history of mankind, we find enormous number of people who have claimed Imamate, Prophethood, and even godhood and divinity; and even today, we find them with many followers!
All around the world, there live people who follow false prophets and worship man-made gods! All the prophets were in clash with the idol-worshippers. This face to face clash between truth and falsehood has constantly prevailed. However, the main and fundamental point is that the All Wise God has finalized His argument for the people through clear argument and proof, so that they may either seek guidance, or else go astray.
Chapter Dahr (or Insaan), verse 3 says:
“Surely, We have shown him the way: he may be thankful or unthankful.” (Qur’an, 76:3)
Chapter Anfal, verse 42 says:
“That he who would perish might perish by clear proof, and he who would live might live by clear proof.” (Qur’an, 8:42)
The motives behind such ascription or claim to the post of Mahdaviyat can be summarized as follows:
Over-ambitiousness and desire to rule: Man within himself possesses the urge to dominate and rule and considering that the post of the twelfth Imam and universal reformer is a matchless and unique global post, the claimants have made such claim so that they can satisfy their desire of domination for a few days in this world.
Cooperation with the Caliphs and Kings: The Umayyid and Abbasid Caliphs, who usurped the caliphate of the Imams falsely, recognized themselves as being Allah’s representative and the representative of the holy prophet (s.a.w.a.). For the sake of survival and continuity of their own rule, they encouraged those claiming Mahdaviyat and by this way made strong their own position. For example, Mansoor Dawaniqi the Abbasid caliph who supported his own son Muhammad-ibn-Abdullah who claimed Mahdaviyat or people like Al-Naser-Le-Din’allah Abbasi (born in 553 A.H.) who themselves claimed the position of Qaemiyat and Mahdaviyat.
Greed for wealth and love of the world: Out of obedience, the people in every era, refer their religious and monetary affairs to their own Imam and the main authority for utilizing the obligatory or recommendable legal treasury is the lofty position of Imamate. Thus, certain groups have claimed this post out of greed for gathering this wealth and achieving their worldly desires.
Spread of corrupt and deviated beliefs: Considering that the true Islam of the Ahl’ul-bayt (a.s.) ruptures any kind of polytheism and deviation, takes a hard stance for any kind of prejudice in prophethood and resurrection, and supports the ethics of the Qur’an, a group by claiming Mahdaviyat, have strived to spread corrupt and deviated beliefs among the people. Through such claims as well as claim of prophethood and Godhood, they wish to replace the true Islamic creed with such unjust beliefs. Taking into account the fact that the mass hold a special belief about the universal reformer and consider him to be the only one to reform the creed and beliefs and reckon him to be the last life-saving ship amidst the endless stormy sea, certain groups have taken advantage and claimed for themselves prophethood and even Godhood like Sayyed Muhammad Bab Shirazi from Iran in the thirteenth century.
Diverting the people from awaiting for the true universal reformer: The sinister policies of colonial countries fear the unity, consolidation of the Shias and Muslims. Thus, by all possible means, they have always strived and still continue to create division and differences among the Shias. By strengthening and paving the way for the claimants, they desired (and succeeded to a certain extent) to create divisions among the Shias and Muslims so that they could rule and achieve their motives. As an example, we can name the colonial policies of England and Russia in supporting and guiding Sayyed Muhammad Bab.
Jealousy towards the Imams: The people’s pure faith and love and affection for their Imam are another reason for making bright the business of these claimants. Out of jealousy, they desired to occupy this divine position.
People’s annoyance and weariness arising from oppression of rulers: Whenever the pious people turn weary from the oppression of the rulers, they pacify their sorrows by remembering Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) and creating a spiritual connection with him. Thus, in history, we see the mercenaries have exploited this path and claimed for themselves Qaemiyat and Mahdaviyat.
Respected readers! In certain instances, those who ascribed prominent figures with Mahdaviyat were themselves more or less possessing such motives and not the prominent figures themselves who were sometimes among the virtuous people or the Imams. For example Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) who was ascribed to be the Mahdi (a.s.) by some specific group.
At times, a group ascribed this title to someone with the motive of fighting against injustice. Amongst those who have been ascribed with the title of Mahdi but themselves did not make such a claim was Muhammad-ibn-Hanafia, son of Amir-ul-Mu’minin (a.s.). Mokhtar-ibn-Abi-Obaidah-Saqafi revolted under his name and introduced him as the Mahdi and took revenge from the killers of Imam Husain (a.s.). After Mokhtar’s murder and death of Muhammad-ibn-Hanafia, his followers denied ibn-Hanafia’s death and believed he resided in the mountain of Rizwa and would return back.
Another one was Zaid-ibn-Ali-ibn-Husain (a.s.) who revolted against the Umayyid. His followers too called him the promised Mahdi. Yet another figure is Muhammad-ibn-Abdullah-Nafs-Zakiyyah who revolted against the initial rule of the Abbasids. His followers thought him to be the Mahdi.
The next group claimed the post of Mahdaviyat. Amongst them, we may name Muhammad Ahmad (Mahdi of Sudan) from Africa, Sayyed Ali Muhammad Bab from Iran (his followers well known as Babiyah), and Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani from India.